The ghosts of White Australia: excavating the past(s) of Rusty's Market in tropical Cairns

Law, Lisa (2011) The ghosts of White Australia: excavating the past(s) of Rusty's Market in tropical Cairns. Continuum, 25 (5). pp. 669-681.

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This paper tracks the history of Rusty's Market in Cairns, Queensland, a site once home to Chinatown from the late nineteenth century and now an important tourist site owned and managed by Gilligan's Backpacker Hotel and Resort. I depict the site as a palimpsest that has simultaneously borne witness to, but also helped to shape, the more general development of cosmopolitan Cairns. My intention in rendering Rusty's in this way is twofold. First, I show how the contemporary experience of cosmopolitan food shopping/eating is always and already layered over faded cosmopolitan pasts. The site has been home to Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian vendors for well over a century; their presence in the current market is continuity as much as change. Second, I recover the older meanings of Chinatown that lay buried underneath the market floor. Retrieving these overwritten meanings reveals a culture of 'forgetting' in Cairns, of the role the Chinese played in early economic and cultural life but also of the White Australia policies that helped bring about Chinatown's ultimate demise. This paper intervenes in the forgetting by narrating/performing a layered interpretation of the site, offering a more contested sense of cosmopolitan belonging.

Item ID: 21022
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1469-3666
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Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2012 06:55
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160403 Social and Cultural Geography @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9503 Heritage > 950399 Heritage not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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